Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "Wine in ancient India"

See other formats





B M 301 am 



Dhirendra Krishna Bose, B. A. 



Published by 

k. M. Conner & Co., Ld. 

Loudon Library & Press. 

130, Bowbazar St.> 



Some portions of this appeared in 'The Indian 
Good Templar^ 1919, the official organ of the Grand 
Lodge of India, I. O. G. T., and some parts of it were 
read in Lord Clive Lodge No. 35, Calcutta, and the 
rest published for the first time. 

I thank Dr. H. H. Mann, D. Sc. the Grand Chief 
Templar of the Grand Lodge of India, for en- 
couraging me in this work, and Mr. S. C. Palit m.a., 
B.L., for going through the M.S.S. 

I received much help from the Bengalee paper 
'Sura' by tc\y uncle, the late Kumar A. K. Deb, 
published from the Sahitya Sava of Calcutta, a debt, 
I gratefully acknowledge. 

95, Grey Street, 

; K. BOSE. 

Calcutta, 26th March 1922. 

} - 

5> O \i * ♦> 1 




Ages and Scriptures ... ... 1 

1. The Vedas ... ... ... 4 

2. The Smrities ... ... ... 10 

3. The Purans ... ... ... 13 

4. The Great Epics — The Ramayana and 

the Mahabharsrta ... ... 15 

5. Buddhist Precepts ... ... 19 

6. The Tantras ... ... ... 22 


1. Artha Shastra ... ... ... 26 

2. Kama Shasta ... ,.. ... 30 

3. Ayur Veda ... ... ... 33 


1. Greek Sources ... ... ... 37 

2. Chinese Sources ... ... 42 

3. Arab Sources ... ... ... 44 


1. Literature ... ... ... 46 

2. Sculpture ... ... ... 49 


Wine in Ancient India. 

Ages and the Scriptures* 

The Hindu Shastras are classed into : — 

1. Shruti, which includes the four Vedas. 

2. Smriti, the work on social and family duties. 

3. Purans. 

4. Tantras. 

The great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabha- 
rata are included in the Hindu Scriptures, and works 
Artha Shastra of Kautilya and Kama Sutra of 
Yatsayana, though not truly Dharma-shastras are 
works on social domestic and political duties of men. 

Ayur-Veda or science of life, deals in health and 
medicine, which forms a part of Atharva-veda is 
also included here. 

Buddhism originated from Hindu philosophy, and 
later Hinduism is much indebted to this cult, so is 
its precepts too are hurriedly glanced. 

2 WIN£ in ancient INDIA. 

According to the Hindu Shastras there are four 
ages, and for each age a suitable shastra is given. 
We find from Kularnava Tantra, in Satya-Yuga (the 
Golden age of righteousness, free from sin) the scrip- 
tures were the Vedas. 

The second age was the Treta-Yuga (righteous- 
ness decreased by one fourth) the scriptures were the 

The third age was the Dvapara-Yuga (righteous- 
ness decresed by half) the scriptures were the Puranas, 

The fourth age is the Kali-Yuga (the iron age, in 
which we find so much wickedness, and the decline 
of all that is good) the scriptures are the Tantras.* 

We shall deal only with the following : — 

1. Shruti or the Vedas. 

2. Smriti or codes of law, the Dharma 
Shastra proper i. e. religious or secular, and 
domestic codes. 

3. Puranas or mythology proper. 

4. The great epics — the Ramayana and the 

5. Buddhist precepts, an off-shoot of the 
Hindu Shastras. 

6. Tantras. 

I. < 

^According to historians the early ages India are divided 
into five epochs viz. 



1. Artha-Shastra political science. 

2. Kama-Sutra. 

3. Ayur-Veda or medical science. 

1. The Vedic period 2000-1400 B. C. 

2. The Epic period 1400-1000 B. C. 

3. Rationalistic period 1000-243 ^^' C. 

4. Buddhist period 242 B. €-500 A, D. 

5. Pauranik period 500 A. D. to 1124 A. D. 

1. The Vedas. 

Of all religious books of the Hindus the Vedas 
are the most respected and the most ancient. There 
are four Vedas, of which Rig- Veda is the chief. 

In the Rig- Veda we find mention of wine. Grog 
shops were in existence then. Wine or beer was 
stored up in leather vats for the use of the public 
(1. 191. 10). In the sacrifice called Sautramoni-yajna 
wine was drunk. 

But the chief intoxicating drink of those days 
was the Soma-juice. According to the Rig Veda the 
Golden-winged Hawk, brought Soma from the 
Heavens. (IX. 43-62) Soma-juice was the fermented 
milky juice of a creeper called Soma (Asclepias-acida 
or Sarcostemna viminale) a plant of the family of milk- 
weeds. It is described as having hanging boughs, 
bare of leaves along the stalks, of light, ruddy (or 
golden) colour with knotty joints, containing in a 
fibrous, cane-like outer rind, an abundance of milky 
acid and slightly astringent sap or juice. It is this 


juice which when duly pressed out and mixed with 
other ingredients and allowed to ferment yields the 
intoxicating sacrificial beverage. The process of 
preparation is given by Windischmann as : — 

'' the plants plucked up by roots, collected 

by moonlight on mountains are carried on a car 
drawn by two goats to the place of sacrifice where a 
spot covered with grass and tw'igs is prepared, 
crushed between stones by the priests and then 
thrown into a sieve of loose woollen weave, whereas, 
after the :whole had been further pressed by the 
hand and the juice trickles into a vessel or kettle 
which is placed beneath. The fluid is then mixed 
with sweet milk and sour milk or curds with wheaten 
and other fiours and brought into a state of fermen tui- 

In this way the juice was kept for nine days to 
ferment. "The beverage is divine, it purifies, it is a 
water of life, gives health and immortality and pre- 
pares the way to heaven." 

It was taken with butter, curd, milk, fried or 
parched grains. — 

Let me quote a few hymns of Rig V'eda about 
Soma (IX. 66). 

2. "O Soma ! j^our two leaves alternated and you 
attained a wonderful glory thereby. 

* Vedic India — p. 172. 


3. O Soma ! the leaves covered thee, a creeper 
on all sides, and you flourished in all seasons. 

7. O Soma 1 you have been crushed, you flow as 
a stream to Indra, scattering joy on all sides, you 
bestow immortal food. 

8. Seven women stir thee with their fingers 
blending their voices in a song to thee, you remind 
tiie sacrificer of his duties at the sacrifice." 

Another : — 

"Thou Soma art the real Lord, 

Thou King and Vrita slayer too. 

Thou art strength that gives success ; 

And Soma let it be thy will 

For us to live, nor let us die. 

Thou lord of plants, who lovest praise." 

"Of all the drinks that Indra have, you are the 
most pleasant and intoxicating" (IX. 96). 

"This is Soma, who flows wine, who is strength 
giving " (IX. 55). 

f About the intoxicating properties of this juice 
there are sufficient evidence in the Vedas. The poet 
of the Rig- Veda goes into ecstacy on the virtues and 
exhilarating powers of Soma. The chosen few, 
who partook it, give most vivid expression to the 


state of exaltation of intensified vitality, which raised 
them above the level of humanity. It was surely as 
potent as wine. It was a divine liquor which gave 
the Gods strength and immortality (LX. 108) 
without which they would lose their might, their 
eternal youth. This was the Amrita or ambrosia. 

There w^as a sacrifice in honour of Soma in which 
the juice was first offered to the gods after which 
the priest and sacrificing party partook of the juice 
themselves. Needless to say large quantities of juice 
were used. In the invocation we find "O Soma there 
is nothing so bright as thou. When poured out, 
thou welcomest all the gods, to bestow on them 
immortality"' A whole book (IX) is devoted to the 
praise of this juice and it is alleged that by the offer- 
ing of the juice the gods were tempted out of the 
heavens ! 

Even the gods were not immune from disease, 
and the evils of intemperance were evident even 
among them. Indra, it is said drank so much once, 
that his stomach assumed huge proportions and 
saliva flowed freely from his mouth. And in the 
prayers to Soma we find an entreaty of this nature 
'' O Soma do not derange our stomach" (8. 48. 10.) 

In Yayur Veda we find that Vishva-rupa the son 
of Tuashtar, while performing the Soma sacrifice 
drank so much of the juice that he vomitted over the 


sacrificial beasts ! We see from this that the Soma- 
jiiice was quite an ardent spirit. 

Soma was the vedic poets' chief drink till the end 
of the period when -^'/^v^ (barley beer ?) was dis- 
covered. The original Soma plant did not grow in 
the Punjab and it had to be collected in the moun- 
tains (Hindu Kush) and brought over. So the status 
of Soma juice become changed. While Sura became 
iiiQ drink of the people, Soma, despite the fact that 
it was not so agreeable a liquor, became reserved for 
its old association, as the purest drink, a sacrosant 
beverage, not for the vulgar and not esteerned by the 
priest, except as it kept up a rite. 

In the Atharva-Veda we find in the after-life i. e. 
after death the devout are provided with seas of 
wine, butter, sugar, milk ete, (4-34-6.) 

With a hymn of Soma we retire from the Vedas : — 

"Where there is eternal light, in the world where 
sun is placed, in that immortal, imperishable world 
place me, O Soma ! fiow thou for Indra. 

"Where the son of Vivasvat reigns as King 
where the secret place of heaven is, where the 
mighty waters are, there make me immortal. Flow 
thou for Indra. 

"Where life is free in the third heaven of heavens, 


where the worlds are radiant, there make me 
immortal ! Flow thou for Indra. 

"Where wishes and desires are, where the bowl of 
the bright Soma is, where there is food aiid rejoicing, 
there make me immortal 1 Flow thou for Indra. 

"Where there is happiness and delight^ where joy 
and pleasure reside, where desires of our desires 
are attained, there make me immortal \ Flow thou 
for Indra/' (Rig Veda IX, 113), 

2. The Smrities. 

After the Vedas the Smrities come in importance. 
If there be any conflict of opinion on certain point 
between Shruti and Smriti, Shruti or the Veda is to 
be followed. 

Smrities are the codes of law on domestic, social 
religious duties of man. There are many Smrities 
but only some of them are important. Historians think 
"Gautama, Apastamba, and Vasistha belong to the 
rationalistic period, Manu to the Buddhist period. 
The remaining 16 works are probably also based on 
ancient Sutra works, but belong to the Pauranik 

Of these too Manu, Yajnavalkya and Parasara 
are the greatest, and their injunctions are still carried 
out by the Hindus. 

In these we find wine is looked down upon, 
especially to the higher castes, it is totally forbidden. 
There were five most heinous crimes mentioned 
there, and drinking wine or spirituous liquor was one 
of them. (Sankhya). 

*R. C. Dutt Ancient India P. 657. 


The penance for drinking wine was very severe, 
*'The wine drinker, should be made to drink that 
liquor boiling hot, until he was completely scalded. " 
<Manu XL 91.) 

The higher castes, willingly and knowingly taking 
wine, are to die by drinking boiling water, milk 
or butter, (Yajna) or molten silver, lead or copper. 

And those unknowingly drink wine — 

**He must wear sack-cloth made from the hair of 
the cow, must not shave, take only rice or oil-cakes 
once in the night for one year. (Manu 11. 93.) 

He must abstain from any work or worship, and 
sustain himself with a small amount of food for 
one year. (Bishnu 51. I. 2.) '*The upper three castes 
must be initiated (in sacred thread) again, if un- 
knowingly drink wine. (Parasara 12). 

Gods do not accept offerings from a drunkard. 

(Artri 218.) 

The son should not repay his father's debts that 
are incurred in drinking. (Gautama 2). **A11 kinds of 
wine are forbidden to the twice borns." (Bishnu 
22. 81). 

" Wine must not be drunk, given or accepted. " 


/, " To mix with a. drunkarcl is a sin. " (Bishnu). It is 
stranger that the sages have made a nice distinction 
between Soma-juice and wine. Thus, if a Soma- 
drinker smells the mouth of wine-drinker^ he must do 
penance. (Bishnu). 

There are many such injunction in all the different 
Smrities, from these we find in what light drinking 
was taken ; not drinking alone but even for smelling 
liquor, touching the drunkard, penance had to be 
done I 

3. The Puranas. ^ 

Paran^is raeans— 'ancient Ipre', they are mythology 
■proper ; they generally follow the Smrities. They 
too disapprove p£ wine. ' Other sins are, got ri<;l of by 
penitence; bujt the drunkard must die 1 

'Wine drinkers must suffer', that is the general 
injunction of the Puranas. A few quotations are given 
"here •— - 

•■'"' Th^ twice born (viz. higher castes) must not 
'dtin^, smell iior thin^ about wine. " (Kurma). 

- "If one smells or touches wine, he must go to the 
pur^jatory nailed Raur^ib. '' (Padma). 

" To, kill . a drunkarcUs. /atherrtin act of peity, not 
to say of sin." (Devi and Kalikab ;; . , .; 

There are 18 chief Puranas and some of these are 
■very ancient, though most of them have been re-cast 
and re-vvTitten at later daj's. 

• Though almost all the Puranas prescribe many 
penances etc. for the drunk/^and wine is forbidden, 
yet we find many examples of drinking and drunkard. 
It is not possible to quote all examples. We conclude 
the Puranas with the interesting myth of the origin 
of wine : — 


Once upon a time, the Gods (Suras) and the demons 
iAsuras) were at war. The Gods approached Visnu 
to assist them. He asked them first to suspend hos- 
tility with the demons, and churn the ocean and 
obtain Amrita. So thej^ first collected all plants and 
herbs that grew on in the world, and threw them 
into the sea of milk. Both the Devas on one side 
and Asuras on the other, pulled Vasaki the king of 
the snakes, who allowed himself to be used as the 
rope to twist the churning stick, (the Mandara 
mountain) and then churned the sea. Great was the 
tumult that ensued, and from the milky foam many 
sorts of rare and wonderful things began to come out, 
the sacred cow, horse, elephant etc. and then the 
Goddess of beauty (Luksmi) seated on a lotus, the 
deadly poison etc. and lastly the cup of the precious 
beverage (Sura). The demons did not accept her 
but the gods did, and after this the gods were 
known as Suras for accepting sura and demons as 
Asuras or " without wine*' for not accepting her (from 
Sanskrit Sura wine, and a without). 

Of course there are different version of the myth 
in some Puranas, I gave one from the Ramayana. 

As the Puranas were much changed and recast 
after the Mahammedan conquest and so they are 
unsafe and unreliable as pictures of ancient Hindu 

4. The Epics — The Ramayana and 
the Mahabharata. 

These are also regarded as great religious books. 

During the age of Ramayana wine drinking was 
current in the society, and it was offered to the Gods 
in worship. Sages and hermits used wine in 

The ideal wife Sita, was seen drinking with her 
husband in the Asoka garden in Ajodhya, after 
the victory over the Raksasas. (Uttara 52). 

We find Sita, invoking the goddess Ganga, the river 
Ganges, while accompanying her husband in his 
banishment thus : — 

"Oh Goddess, be pleased, when we come back we 
shall propitiate you with thousands jars of wine." 

(Ajo. 52). 

We see the great hermits and sages, hke Vasistha 
and Visvamitra, honouring guests with many kinds 
of foods and wines. (Bal. 53). 

When Bharata was guest of Varadwaj, another 
sage, he too was treated with enough wine. (Ajo. 91.) 

At that age the common people were addicted to 


drink and merriments, and we find that after the 
banishment of Rama, the city of Ajodhya mourned 
his OTs; and ■ there were no sweet sceiits of Avine, 
fragrance of flowers and other scents in the streets. 
(Ajo. 114). 

We see the Banaras had drinking, garden. So 
Avith the Raksasas. Probably these were the original 
inhabitants of India before the Aryans came. The 
.streets, of city of Kiskindhya, the kingdom of Banaras 
scented wine. Their queen, Tara was found drunk. 
(Kis. 33). . 

; We find a long description of drinking garden of 
the Raksasas, we cull a few passsges — "Her.e golden 
jars, there crystal and ruby goblets full of wine, 
ladies are lying disheveled by wine." (Sun 11). 

In one place we find drinking was censured in 
the book, Laksmana, finding Sugriva, the monkey- 
king drunk, admonishes him thus : — 

"Wine is not to be indulged in by those who are 
in quest of religion (or duty > wealth or love for all 
these are destroyed through drink." (Kis. 33). 

But we find this advice was scarcely followed. 

The age o£ the, Mahabharata is later ;* and though 
the common people appear to be more sober, the rich 

* The Hindus regard so, but the historians think it other- 
wise. See R. C. Dutt-Ancient India Book II. 


and the brave, were not so. Almost all the chief 
characters in the Mahabharata were addicted to 
strong drinks. Ladies of high families too used wine, 
we find the queen of Birat, sending her maid to fetch 
wine. (Birat 16). 

The great King Yudhisthira celebrated the horse 
sacrifice in great pomp, and there seas of wine, lakes 
of butter, mountains of rice etc. (Aswa 89). 

But the evils of drinking were fully depicted in 
the book. The celebrated claii of Yadavas, was so 
much addicted to wine, that their chief had to pro- 
claim that "any one preparing wine within the city, 
must suffer capital punishment.. " (Musal.l). 

But the precaution did not save them, and the 
whole clan was destroyed by a family quarrel started 
through drinking. Some 500,000 Yadavas were killed 
thereby ! 

Though the leading characters were all wine 
drinkers, still we find they were not quite blind to 
evils of intemperance, and some of the best advices of 
Hindu-Shastras are found here. 

"To abstain from meat and wine is the best 
Brahmacharya or continence." (An. 22). 

"Those who never touch wine in their lives are 
called Munis or hermits." "We can get the same 


benefit as are obtained by horse sacrifice, if we 
abstain from wine." (An. 115). 

The most celebrated sacrifice in those days was 
the horse sacrifice, and in the ritual of this and in 
coronation ceremony, we find — - 

'\..Now the priest gives into his hand a goblet of 
sprituons liquor, and repeats a propitiatory Mantra 
or incantation." 

When the rulers themselves used wine freely, one 
can not but expect his people would follow his 
example, rather than the precept of the Shastras. And 
so vire find all advices for abstinence fell on deaf ears. 

5. Buddhist Precepts. 

Though Buddhism, which is based upon Sankhya 
philosophy, is generally regarded as a separate 
religion, we can take it to be a new sect or rather an 
off-shoot of Hinduism, Gautama Buddha, the 
founder, never believed he preached a new religion, 
he thought he was only proclaiming the reformed 
form of the ancient religion. 

This religion is known for its great moderations 
in all things, adopting the golden mean or middle 
course, it is a system of self-culture and self-restraint. 

We are not going to dwell on all the teachings 
of Buddha, but his instructions for conquering 
desires and passions and thirst of life are superb, 
*'A more beautiful picture of life was never conceived 
by poet or visionary ; and more perfect system of 
self culture was never proclaimed by philosopher or 
saint"-— R. C Dutt. 

Among the moral precepts of Buddha, we find 


"Let the house-holder, who approves of this Dharma, 
not give himself to intoxicating drinks, let him not 
cause others to drink, nor approve of those that drink, 
knowing it to end in madness." (Dhammika Sutra). 

There are five commandments in this religion 
which are binding on Buddhists, laymen and 
Bhikkus alike and one of these is — 

"Let not one drink intoxicating drinks" 

To be initiated into the Buddhist order one has 
to accept 10 commandments and take this vow along 
with other. — 

"I take the vow to abstain from intoxicating 
drink, which hinder progress." (Mohavagga 1-12). 

In every fortnight confessions and disburdenment 
of sins were held. And in these we find the different 
sins, and naming the penance for each. Drinking 
falls under ninety two minor offences which called 
for repentance only. 

Society in this age was quite temperate in all 
things, in .some cases rather austere. But this gave 
rise to Buddha-Tantricism, which in its turn gave 
place to Hindu Tantricism, about which we will 
consider next. 


Before we take leave of Buddhism, it is proper 
to mention, that this philosophy has done much in 
moulding worlds thought. Some Christian writers 
admit that Buddhism in Syria was a preparation, a 
fore-runner of the religion preached by Jesus Christ 
two centuries later." While in India it gave rise to 
the Vaishnava doctrine of love on one side, and 
Kaula or Tantric doctrine of equality on the other.* 

* Ancient India p. 446. 

6. The Tantras. 

Now we come to the most important part of the 
Hindu Shastras as regards wine, viz. the Tantras. 
There are great difference of opinion regarding 
these. "To the historian, the Tantra Hterature 
represents, not a special phase of Hindu thought, 
but a diseased form of human mind, which is possible 
only when the national life has departed, when all 
political consciousness has vanished, and the lamp of 
knowledge is extinct. "* 

But in Bengal it played a great part, and the chief 
strong holds of the Tantras are Bengal, Nepal, 
Kashmir, and Gujrat. Other parts of India were not so 
affected by this ritual. In Bengal some of the most 
important worships are of the Tantric Gods viz. 
Durga and Kali, and there are still evidences of its 
hold on the society it once had. 

We lind that the Tantric age, followed the 
Buddhist age as a reaction. The severe austerities of 
Buddhism gave rise to revelry and debauchery. And 
this religion of ease and pleasure was highly welcome 
to the people. We will see here only the part wine 

* Ancient India p. 672 . 


played in the Tantric rituals, other rites do not 
concern us. 

Tantra is called "The Scripture of the present 
age." "In this age, the Vedic rites are as powerless as 
snakes, the poison fangs of which are drawn. (Maha- 
nirban 1. 15). 

We have seen before, that wine was looked down 
upon in the Smrities and the Puranas, especially' in 
worships, and if one offers wine to the Gods, he is 
condemned. But not so in the Tantras. There are 
five chief ingredients of worship and wine is one of 

Tantra is the presentment of the Vedas which 
are modelled to meet the informities of Kali-Yuga 
(the present age) and in these Tantras we find the 
use and abuse of wine. 

Wine is indispensible in Tantric rituals. Great 
care is taken to guard against the abuse or misuse 
of it. Before taking wine, it should always be 
purified, as there are some curses attached to it, and 
to drink wine, which is not purified by Mantras is a 
sin, and is like drinking poison. 

A wife is allowed only to smell wine, instead of 
drinking. A house-holder, whose mind is entirely 
engrossed with domestic desires, " three sweets " i.e. 
milk, sugar and honey, are to be substituted for wine. 


But as a rule wine was absolutely necessary in 
worship and without this one stands the risk of 
losing life. Ordinarily one takes five cups only, and 
drinks until the sight and mind are not affected, to 
drink beyond is bestial. But with the case of a 'hero^ 
it is quite different, and in his case we find the 
famous, rather notorious couplet which may be 
rendered in English thus : — 

" Drink, drink, and drink again, 
Till you be flat on the floor, 
Raising yourself, drink again. 
Liberation at your door." 

There are many praises of wine in the Tantras. 
Wine is called 'the Supreme being in liquid form.' 
It is called 'the great medicine of humanity, helping 
us to forget deep sorrows, is the cause of great joy.' 
But when not purified, 'stupefies and bewilders, breeds 
disputes and diseases.' But when properly taken is 
'the mother of enjoyment and liberation'. It 'destroys 
dangers and diseases and burns up heap of sin and 
purifies the world'. There are warnings too, and all 
excesses are forbidden to house-holder. 

Thus we have seen all the great Shastras of the 
Hindus, and most of them disfavour the use of wine. 
Let us conclude with the words of the great 


law-giver Manu, "There is no fault in taking meat, 
drinking wine or craving after flesh, these are quite 
natural, but io abstain from these is the highest 

With the Tantras we finish the Dharma-Shastras 
proper i. e. the religious books. Now we come 
to other Shastras, the non-secular, political and 
domestic codes. 

Wine in Ancient India. 


1. Artha Shastra. 

Hindu Shastras are grouped into three main 
divisions, viz. 

I. Dharma Shastra, the religious books proper. 

II. Artha Shastra, deals with wealth and worldly 
prosperity. Politics is a part of this Shastra. 

III. Kama Shastra deals with various desires 
of the body. These three are the Triharga or the 
three, for which the whole human nature moves. The 
first, we have just considered in detail. Of the other 
two,probably owing to the diif erent foreign conquests, 
the national life of the Indians suffered a great deal, 
and consequently, the science of politics was of 
no use to the nation. They followed the ways of 
the conquerors, and Indian art and craft suffered. 
As Artha Shastra was of no use to the nation, so 


they slowly disappeared. Of course we come across 
the name of different authors or their works. We 
know a sage, named Brihaspati, was an authority in 
this Shastra, but his works are now lost to us. Lately, 
we discovered Kautilya's Artha Shastras in tact in 
Southern India, and from this we cull a few passages, 
to illustrate in what light wine was taken in the 

From this Shastra we find the different ways and 
modes of management, of municipal supervision of 
different parts of a town ; we see wine shops (with 
cooked meat shop) were restricted to certain portion, 
and inspectors were appointed over these. We take 
a few passages from the chapter (XXV) of this 
book, to show how wine and grog shops were 
managed in those days. 

"Liquor shall not be taken out of villages, nor 
liquor shops be closed to each other. Lest workmen 
spoil the work in hand, and Aryas violate their 
decency, and virtuous character, and lest fire brands 
commit indiscreet acts, liquor shall be sold to persons 

of well known character, in small quantities 

Those who are known, and of pure character, may 
take liquor out of the shop, or all may be compelled 
to drink liquor within the shops." 

We wonder, whether the men of pure character, 


got wine for their own use, or they were the agents 
or servants of the rich, sent to fetch wine. The 
venders of wine were put to task if they sold Hquor 
to persons of questionable character. However we 
come to this later. 

Then about the liquor shops : — 

"These shops, shall contain many rooms, provided 
with beds and seats apart. The drinking rooms shall 
contain scents, garlands of flowers, water and other 
comfortable things, suitable to varying seasons " 

A fashionable cafe in those days ! But the shop- 
keeper, had a good deal of responsibility towards 
his customers, and probably that was the reason for 
his being so particular about their character, for we 
find, "When customers, under intoxication, lose any 
of their things, the wine dealer, shall not only make 
good the loss, but also pay an equivalent fine". 

Probably there was excise department in those 
days, and all were not allowed to prepare wine, for 
we find " on special occasions of festivals, fairs, and 
pilgrimage, right of manufacture for four days shall be 
allowed." (to the people ?) 

"On special occasions people (or families) shall be 
allowed to manufacture white liquor, Aristas, for 
diseases, and other kinds of liquor," (probably medi- 


cinal wines) the above refers to the medical men 
no doubt. The various kinds of Hquor mentioned 
are Modaka, Prashanna, Asava, Arista, Maireya 
and Madhvi. The formulas of these are given there. 
We find Modaka was made from rice, Prashanna 
from flour, Asava from sugar, Maireya from molases, 
Madhvi from honey, all were mixed with different 
kinds of spices, some with other ingredients, and 
ferments in different proportions. 

2. Kama Shastra. 

Like the preceding Shastra, here too we have 
to depend on practically on one book viz. Vatsayan's 
Kama Sutra. Though we have many names of 
authors and their treatises most of them are now lost 
to us. 

Little is known about Vatsayan, the author. From 
the language, style, and plan of the book, we may 
take it, that the book is of the same age as the Artha 
Shastra of Kautilya, and from these two books we 
get much light about the inner life, and mode of 
civilization, and social customs of the citizens of that 
age. (About 300 B. C.) 

This book deals with duties daily routine of a 
citizen ; some are his daily duties, and some his 
occasional duties. Citizen, is defined as one (of-course 
who lives in a city), who has finished his education, 
and follows a profession, or has some independent 
means of livelihood. 

Among his daily duties, wine finds no place, but 
we find among his occasional duties, he indulged 
sometime with his friends in " heavy drinking". The 
drinking party, met in each others houses or gardens. 


They drank various kinds of wines viz., Madhvi, 
Maireya Sura, Asava ; about the nature of these 
wines, we shall consider later in our chapter on 
Ayurveda. These wines, were mixed with various 
kinds of salts, fruits, vegetables and condiments of 
bitter, hot, sour tastes, offering these to one another. 
(Book I. IV. 37-39), 

In the gardens, in addition to drinking, thev 
indulged in various kinds of games, such as cock or 
ram fight or gambling, or game of chance. Often 
they drank wine freely. They enjoyed life fully, of 
course in their own way, is evident from the 11 
different kinds of games mentioned here. It seems 
strange that 25 centuries have passed since then, and 
we still find surviving in a modified form, many of 
the old games, in many parts of India. So much for 
a citizen, let us look at the duties of his wife. 
Vatsayana deals exhaustively about this too. In book 
IV. we find a chapter on the duties of a wife. We 
see the daily routine of a faithful wife, from early 
dawn to late in the night, how she took care of the 
household, her behaviour towards her elders, her 
equals, what she should avoid, her toilette, her dress 
&c., her duties in the kitchen &c., &c. Among the 
duties we find, preserving of pots of Sura (wine) and 
asava (rum) and their proper use (35) ; probablythese 
wines were intended for the occasional festivities 


mentioned before. But there is no evidence in this 
book that the wife used wine, but the mistress did. 
(IV. 11 59). 

There is mention of wine, used to intoxicate 
maids, and then get them married against their will ; 
also harlots sought the help of wine-sellers for their 
profession (IV 91) (III 24-25). But these are not use 
but abuse of wine, and we are not concerned with 

Among the qualifications of an accomplished 
person, we find among other, he must not be addicted 
to drink (VI. 11), and this was one of the qualities of 
a proper lover. 

Even from this Shastra too we find the Indians 
were a temperate people. 

3. Ayur-Veda. 

The medical book of the Hindus are called Ayur- 
Veda, or science of life, which has for its object not 
only the protection of human life, but also the life 
of animals and even plants.* It is a part of Atharva 
Veda. The Ayur-Veda is considered to be the most 
ancient system of medicine by Dr. Wise, in his 
History of Medicine ; but the age in which it was 
written is not known, and fragments only of the 
original works are procurable. 

The ancient Greeks, Arabs and Persians, paid 
respect to Hindu medicine, and they translated many 
Indian books of medical science. And the transla- 
tion of Susruta was a standard book in Bagdad in 
the 8th century. The Moors took this knowledge to 
Europe, and from them other nations got their 
healing art. 

Most of the original treaties are lost to us. Only 
one of them the **Agnivesa Samhita thrice revised 
and recast, survives in skeleton, and is known as the 

* Ayur-Veda by M. M. Gananath Sen. 


famous Charaka Samhita. Of the school of surgeons 

headed by the roj^al master Dhanwantari 

only one of them the Susruta Samhita, as revised and 
recompiled, survives to tell the tale of mutilation". 

Charaka, dealt exhaustively with wine, their 
origin, qualities varities, on the use and abuse of it ; 
we find from this, that wine was prepared from the 
grains of corn, fruite, roots, stem, flowers, leaf, bark 
and juice of different plants, and from sugar honey 
and by combinations of all these in numerous kinds 
of wines and liquors. Of these 14 kinds are fit for 
human use. 

Other books, some mention 60 kinds, and some 
only 12 kinds of wines. But all agree in classifying 
all liquors in three main divisions viz : — 

(1) Gauri^ or prepared from gura or Sugar. 

(2) Madhavi, or from fruit-juices and honey. 

(3) Paisie, or from corn-grains. 

Of these, the first two are wines proper and 
the last is beer, in the modern sense. All these are 
prepared by fermenting the ingredients for some 
days. Some times first boiling these with sugar, 
then fermenting and mixing these with certain leaves 
and roots for flavouring purposes, and after a fort- 
night, the liquor is decanted or distilled, and is ready 
for use. 


In Ayur-Veda, like all other current and some 
modern medical books we usually find much praise 
of wine, occasional warning for the abuse or misuse. 

We quote a few passages for illustration. Charaka 
says of wine 'invigorator of mind and body, antidote 
to sleeplessness, sorrow and fatigue, producer of 
hunger, happiness and digestion.' 

**If taken as medicine, and not for intoxication, it 
acts as Amrita (ambrosia) it cures the natural flow of 
internal fluids of the body." 

"Wine is natural food but taken indiscriminately 
produces disease, but when taken properly, it is like 
"Amrita" the immortal drink." 

But w^e also meet with these too : — 

"He who abstains from all kinds of wine, escapes 
from every kind of physical and mental disease". 

After Charaka comes Shusruta in importance, and 
it too follows the first in the praise of wine in general. 

There is a nice ode on wine in Charaka and we 
give here translation of a few passages from this : — 

(Wine) who is worshipped with the Gods, invoked 

in Sautra-moni yajna, who is Amrita to the gods 

soma juice to the Brahmans the destroyer 


of sorrow, fear and anxiety who is pleasure 

happiness and nourishment (to men) 

We must not leave this subject, without mention- 
ing a saying from Rajnigbantu, a later medical book 
which is : — 

"A Brahman must not touch wine, if a dead 
man has chance of regaining his life thereby, (that is 
by taking wine) even then he must not." 

Wine in Ancient India. 



1. Greek Sources. 

We have seen from the different codes of the 
Hindus that most of these advocate abstinence. Let 
us see from contemporancy evidence, i. e. accounts 
left by travellers who came to India in those days 
how they found the Indians, whether they observed 
these injunctions or not. 

Of these foreigners, who came to India in early 
times, we find the Greek account first. Some of these 
Greeks came after the advent of Alexender to India. 
Of these, some came like Magasthenes, as ambassador 
to Indian Court. Some, though did not actually 
come to India, had first hand information from 
Indian travellers whom they met. 

Other like the Chinese, came to India on 
pil>£rimage or to study in the Indian Universities of 


Nalanda and Taxila. They generally remained in 
India for a few years, mixed with the poeple inti- 
mately, and travelled through greater part of India, 
visited important towns and shrines, and collected 
copies of Buddhist religious books and them left 
India. They left most valuable informations about 
political, geographical and social conditions of the 

Lastly came the Araba and other Mahomedan 
travellers after the Mahomedan conquest. We give 
here only the manner and customs of the Hindus as 
they found them. They all agree that the Hindus 
were a temperate people, and wine was never a 
favourite drink with them. 

We can take Ktesias, to be the first authentic 
historian, who wrote about India. He had lived in 
Persia as a private physician to King Artaxerxes 
Mnemon, about 416 B. C. 

Then comes Magasthenes's history, * Indika '. 
He came to India as an embassy, to the court of 
Sandrokottos, who is identified to be the Emperor 
Chandra Gupta, from Saleukos Nikatar, the Greek 
King of Bactria. Both the original books of Ktesias 
and Magasthenes are lost, but the substances of the 
books are to be found condensed in Strabo, Pliny 
and Arrian. 


Dr. Robertson has observed, that the Greeks 
through pride of their superior eiiHghtenment, 
disdaind to pay attention to the people, whom they 
considered as barbarians, and so probably anything 
they saw worthy in other people, they thought must 
be derived from the Greeks. 

Nearly all the Greek historians mention that 
Dionysus, their wine God, came to India in remote 
times. He conquered the people, founded cities 
and gave them laws. He introduced the use of 
wine amongst the Indians, as he had done among 
the Greeks, and taught them to sow the land, and 
he supplied the seeds. He first yoked the oxen to 
the plough. Magasthenes says, " men of great learn- 
ing among the Indians tell, that in most remote 
period, Dion3'sus came to India ". 

Pol3'aen says, Dionysus in his expedition against 
Uhe Indians, disguised the arms with which he 
equipped his troops and made them wear soft 
raiment and fawn skins. The spears were wrapped 
round with ivy and thyrus had a sharp point. He 
gave the signal for battle by cymbals and drums, 
instead of trumpets, and by regaling the enemey 
with wine, diverted their thoughts from war to 
dancing. These, and other Bacchic orgies were 
employed in the sj-stem of warfare, by which he 
subjected India and all the rest of the world. About 


Dionysus's Indian expedition, there is no Indian 
account. Most probably it was conceived in Greek 

From Greek legends in Greece, we find that 
Dionysus (Bacchus) was the son of Zeus. He was 
the wine god. He became mad, and wandered about 
various parts of the earth. He first went to Egypt 
then through Syria to India. He taught the inhabi- 
tants of the places he traversed, the cultivation of 
vine ; and introduced elements of civilization. He 
ruled India for a long time. He w\as first to crush 
grapes, and discovered the use and properties of 

Alexander's followers, finding vine growing in 
India, and seeing the people civilised, invented this 

Strabo (XV.) quoting Magasthenes, says, that in 
India there were some philosophers, who lived in 
the mountains worshipped Dionysus, showing as a 
proof that wild vine grew there, none of which are 
found beyond the Euphrates. They observed also 
certain customs which are Bacchanalian. But he 
also mentioned another sect called the Sarmanes, who 
lived in the place, abstained from wine. Most 
probably these Sarmanes were the Sramans, the 
Buddhist ascetics. 

But Ktesias does not mention about Dionj^siis. 


From his account, we find the Indians were as a race 
sober. They never drank wine, except at sacrifices. 
They Hved happily enough, bein^J simple in manner 
and frugal in habit. Their beverage was a liquor, 
made from rice, instead of barley. Of the 
products of the vegetable kingdom of India, Ktesias 
mentioned a very good wine, which Lassan thinks, 
to be an intoxicating liquor, prepared from sugar 
and palm juice (toddy). Ktesias says, the cheese and 
wines of the Indians were the sweetest in the world, 
adding, he knew it from his own experience, since 
he tasted both. Their kings were never allowed to 
make themselves drunk, like the Persian King, 
who on particular days at the sacrifice, was allowed 
to do so. 

He says, that wine was served to kings by maids, 
and if the King become drunk, the maid could kill 
him and become the wife of his successor. Most 
probably this referred to certain particular incident, 
not the general practice. 

From Arrian's account we find that three kinds 
of wine were imported into India, viz., from 

(1) Layodisia, in Syria. (2) Italy. (3) Arabia. 

Thus we see, like modern times, the foreigners 
were responsible for the introduction of wine in 
ancient India. 

2. The Chinese Sources. 

Of the Chinese travellers, who came to India, two 
are most famous, and happily, both have left accounts 
of the people and their civilization. The first of 
these, is Fa Hian. He left China in 399 A. D. and 
came through Central Asia to India, and remained 
here up to 414. He recorded, among other things, 
*' throughout the countrj', the people kill no living 
things ; nor drink wine, nor they eat gralic or onion, 
with exception of Chandals only. In this country 
they do not keep swine nor fowls, and do not deal 
in cattle, they have no shambles or wine shops in 
their market places. " 

He travelled through many places in upper India, 
and after collecting many copies of the Buddhist 
sacred books, he sailed from Tamralipi, at the mouth 
of the Ganges, and thence he sailed to Ceylon, thence 
visiting Java returned home. 

After Fa Hain, came Houen Tsang. He left 
China in 629 A. D. and came through Central Asia 
to India, where he lived and travelled for many years, 
and finally left for China on 645. He too gave a 
general description of the arts and manners of the 


Hindus, with whom he mixed intimately. His 
account is very important to the historian, but we are 
concerned here with the drink and drinking habits 

The Kshatriyas were fond of the juice of the 
grape and sugar-cane. Vine was not indigenous to 
India, but was introduced here from Persia, probably 
by the Greeks, and at the time of Houen Tsang 
probably it was very common. Then he says, ** the 
Vaisyas used strong fermented drinks, and the 
Sramans (Buddhist priests), and Brahmans, used a 
sort of syrup, made from the grapes or sugar-cane, 
but not fermented. " 

Other Chinese travellers came to India, the land 
of Buddha, for pilgrimage or study. A Chinese writer, 
named Tsang, records the name of 56 Chinese 
travellers that came to India from 1 st. century after 
Christ ; but sorry we have got no account of their 
travells yet. 

3. Arab Sources.* 

A£ter the Mahomedan conquest, many Arab travel- 
lers came to India. Some of them mentioned about 
wine drinking here. Iben Fakia, an Arab traveller, 
mentioning about the punishment of wine drinker, in 
Kumar Kingdom, near Travancore, says that red hot 
iron bars were left on the bare bodies, till they are 
cold, and many died thereby. 

Al-Masudi says, "the Hindus are free from drink 
habits, and those who take wine, are degraded in 
social status, not because their religious books 
forbade the use of wine, but because wine deranges 
the mind too. If a king is addicted to wine, his 
subjects depose him ^\ 

Suleman— the Arab historian says, " the Hindus 
are abstemious people, they are never luxurious, wine 
is looked down upon, and a King, who drinks wine is 
not truly a King '\ 

Iben Khurtuba says, *' In India, the Brahmins 
never take wine, they pass their days in study. " 

Alberuni, who came with Mahmud of Gazni, as 

* The accounts of the records from Arab writers are 
taken from Kumar A. K. Deb's " Sura " (wine). 


prisoner from Khiva, records " Wine is forbidden 
among the Hindus, but the Sudras may take it, but 
can not sell. " 

Thus we see that at even at the close of the 12th 
century, the Hindus observed strictly the injunction 
of the Smrities, and probably the Tantric doctrine 
did not gain any hold over the society even then. 

Wine in Ancient India. 



1. Literature. 

Life is reflected in the literature of a nation, so 
let us look to ancient literature. We have already 
considered the ^reat epics, and the mythological 
stories, and have seen heroes and chief characters in 
these, were not free from drink. So with the charac- 
ters in the dramas. The rich and wealthy invariably 
indulged in wine. We have no space to quote many 
passages from these. Only we give here the excellent 
observation of Mr. R. C. Dutt : — 

'* We know from Sakuntala that there were grog 
shops, which were frequented by the very lowest 
castes ; while among the courtiers of a luxurious 
court, and among the profligate and the gay, drinking 
was not unknown. Bharavi has a canto, on joys of 
drinking, and Kalidas too often speaks of ladies 


whose lips were scented with perfume of Uquor ! 
Nagananda has an amusing passage relating to an 
intoxicated courtier in search for his mistress, — a 
slave girl. Drinking was almost universal in royal 
courts, and the ladies of royal house-hold did not 
refuse their share ! The Katha Sarit Sagara (chapter 
110) thus describes the drinking hall of King Nara- 
vahana Dutta. "It was full of goblets, made of 
various jewels, which looked like so many expanded 
lotuses and strewn with many flowers, so that it 
resembled a lotus bed in a garden ; and it was 
crowded with ladies with jugs full of intoxicating 
liquor, who made it flash like the nectar appearing 
in the arms of Garuda. There they drank wine, 
that snaps those fetters of shame that bind the ladies 
of the royal household, — wine the essence of Love's- 
life, the ally of merriment ! " 

"The mass of the middle classes and the industrial 
and agricultural classes abstained from drink as they 
do to this day. "* 

We suppliment a few passages only to this 
excellent extract, let me say here, that the industrial 
classes of the present age are not so sober as in 
Mr. Dutt's days (only 50 years hence). 

In Mrichchakoti, we find that profligate youths 

♦ Ancient India p. 788. 


came to the house of a woman, to drink iced wine. 
(Act. IV). 

In Ratnabali, we see at the ceremony in honour, 
of the God of Love, citizens, both male and female 
being drunk, revelling in song and dance (Act V.). 
We find wine is called 'ornament of woman.' (Act III). 
We find in Raghubansa, the victorious army of Raghu 
indulging in coconut-wine (4-42), in the Mahendra 
hills, and in wine at a vineyard in Persia (4-65). In 
this, we find the last of the Raghus indulged in wine 
so much and other debauchery that he died a pre- 
mature death. 

There are many passaj^es showing ladies freely 
indulging in wine. It is a favourite with the poets 
to say that Bakul flower does not bloom, unless a 
lady has soaked it with a gargle of wine. Perhaps 
suggested by this wine scented flower. 

Wine is called the 'fruit of enjoyment' in Megha 

In those days of ease and plenty, wine was an 
object of enjoyment surely, but seldom we find the 
masses abused it. 

2. Sculpture. 

Like literature and art, sculpture too reflects the 
life of the nation of the particular age. Sculpture 
and art begin in India just at the Buddhist period. 
Let me quote Dr. Fergussan, **When Hindu sculpture 
first dawns upon us in the rails at Buddh Gaya and 
Bharut B. C, 200 to 250 it was thoroughly original, 
absolutely without foreign influence " 

The art certainly declined when the gate-ways 
at Sanchi were executed in first century of the 
Christian era... Its downward progress was arrested 
(probably) from a school of art implanted in that 
land by Bactrian Greeks or... by direct intercourse 
with Rome and B3'zentium). 

Its effects were certainly apparent at Amaravati 
in the 4th and 5th centuries, where a school of 
sculpture developed partaking the characteristics ot 
both those of Central India and the West."* 

We have quoted the long extract to elucidate our 
points later. 

We see that the '*Asoke's pillars," as they are 
called at Gaya have some figures carved upon them, 

* History of Indian Architecture p. 34. 


showing the manners and customs of those days, 
and these are one of the earhest sculptures of early 
Indian art. Here we find domestic scenes represent- 
ing love-making and drinking.* 

Then we come to Bhanit rails, " making love and 
drinking are not represented here as at Sanchi — nor 
are the females represented nude as they are at 
Muttra. All are decently clothed from waist down- 
wards at least, and altogether the manners and 
customs at Bharut are much purer as the art is better 
than it is in the more modern example at Sanchi. t 
These are truly Indian Arts without any foreign 

Then we come to Muttra School which has 
distinct trace of foreign influence — chiefly Greek. We 
find here "busts of two figures, a male and female, 
either making volent love to each other, or drinking 
something stronger than water.'' t 

The beautiful rails at Sanchi portray men and 
women eating and drinking and making love. 

In Grunwedel's Buddhist Art in India edited by 
J. Burges we find an interesting figure from the 
Sanchi rails, we quote his words : — 

• History of Indian Architecture p. 86. 
f History of Indian Artitecture p. 91. 
I History of Indian Architecture p 93. 


"Ou the eastern j:^ate\vay two fii^urcs are 

represented ridiiifc horned lions. One of the heads 
is clearly not of Aryan type, the woolly negro-like 
hair and thick coarse shape of the whole head — 
surprise one, this same figure holds a bunch of grapes 
in his hand. In India wine is unknown. There 
appears to be no word in the early-language for vine, 
or its cluster. * Probably vine signifies the foreign 
influence. We also see two figures of two pedestals 
that are in Lahore Museum figured in that book. 
They are distinctly of Gandhara or Greek origin. One 
represents some Bacchanalian orgy, even the men 
in whose knee the women are seated look more 
Romans than orientals." t The second represents "a 
vintage scene, in which boys, leopards, a scene of 
dalliance. Bacchus on a leopard and wine press of 
Europe (unknown in India but common in Persia) 
are in a distinctly Byzantine arrangement of the grape 
vine." In the Ajanta cave we have got pictures of 

From all these we conclude that wine drinking 
was known in society in those days though not very 

♦ Buddhist art in India p. 33, 34. 
t Ibid p. 150. 

RETURN TO the circulation desk of any 
University of California Library 

or to the 


BIdg. 400, Richmond Field Station 

University of California 

Richmond, CA 94804-4698 


• 2-month loans may be renewed by calling 

• 1-year loans may be recharged by bringing 
books to NRLF 

• Renewals and recharges may be made 
4 days prior to due date 



FEB 2 1 2006 

DD20 12M 1-05 

FORM NO. DD6 BERKELEY, CA 94720-6000